Opinion: Young Farmers – loud, bright and our future

What a glorious time of year to be a farmer. The crops are growing quickly and the wildlife is in exuberant form. While some bird species pair up, ready to make nests and reproduce, hares fight it out in the fields to burn off their testosterone.

This behaviour was remarkably similar to that displayed in Blackpool last weekend at the Young Farmers annual convention.

Young farmers in a crowd at Blackpool Young Farmers AGM

© Tim Scrivener

It is 20 years since I was last there, but I returned, like a battle-scarred war veteran to speak at their Agri Forum.

It would be fair to say that the farming youth claimed Blackpool as their own for a couple of days.

More than 6,000 young farmers would be hard to hide in a town of that size, even if they weren’t wearing their bright shirts. What they lacked in spatial awareness, they made up for in volume. I am a man of tender sensibilities these days and felt at times as though I had stumbled into the pages of Viz magazine.

I telephoned my friend Lindsay to bemoan the noise and the fact that nowhere served Chablis. I questioned if agriculture would collapse when these people took the helm. Lindsay reminded me of some of the exploits from our own YFC days and I realised we had behaved in exactly the same way.

Matthew Naylor is the managing director of Naylor Flowers, a south Lincolnshire business that grows cut flowers and potatoes for supermarkets. Matthew is a Nuffield scholar.

I had vague recollections of a contest to knock a man’s hat off with a water balloon. Lindsay remembered the time that he accidentally kicked Charles in the face so hard that he knocked his tooth out.

The antics of one convention – I think it was in Minehead in the early 1990s – made the national press after a young farmer tried to force-feed a seagull lager.

These days, as a man more likely to be hit with a water balloon than to throw one, I recall such incidents with embarrassment.

I can, however, report that our generation turned out OK. Lindsay built up an engineering business in the food industry. Charles runs a 2,000-acre farm (actually, he farms quite a bit more than that, but I put 2,000 to annoy him). We all grew up and we have been quietly working hard to keep the country fed ever since.

See also: Radio 1’s Greg James struggles in ‘farm toolbox challenge’

I know that today’s youngsters will be exactly the same. One day, they too will have worries of their own and will want to be in bed by 10.30pm. Judging from their dirty trousers, most of these young farmers are already working more hours and in harder conditions than their contemporaries in other careers. Many of them will be financially independent at a young age. We can forgive them for blowing off a bit of steam in Las Iguanas once a year. They probably won’t get a summer holiday again until 2059.

The YFC has always been a force for good in the countryside. It manages to combine charitable work with late nights and good fun. It helps young people with isolated jobs to form friendships that will last a lifetime. For those who want them, there are fantastic opportunities for travel and personal development. The Agri Forum event showed their serious side, as well demonstrating how passionately young people care about their future.

While I might be too old to party with them, I am happy to a raise a Jägerbomb to the conclusion that the future of the industry is in safe hands.